Friday, November 21, 2014

D3 of F5

Today is Kintala's third full day in No Name Harbor. The winds picked up to a steady Force 5 within hours of the hook hitting the mud and, with the exception of a couple of hours here and there, have remained constant ever since. Weather maps suggest the wind is being driven by a large high pressure area north of here, one which shows little inclination to go anywhere in a hurry. This being south Florida there is always a lot of moisture in the air, so any kind of disturbance is likely to kick up scattered rain showers. Nothing serious, just enough to make opening and closing ports and hatches a regular daily exercise. With the winds out of the northeast my guess is friends tied to moorings in Dinner Key, facing waves generated by the steady winds working on the miles of open water in front of them, are likely not enjoying the ride.

Here in No Name fetch is not an issue and the waters are nothing but wavelets and cat's paws. Kintala still swings and sways though, dancing around her anchor like kids playing Marco Polo. It isn't uncomfortable, really, just enough to make missteps common, a kind of stumble / lurch little dance that land living only sees when the earth moves. A much bigger deal than some wind and waves. (I have experienced exactly one little earthquake in my life. It was enough, thank you.)

The original idea behind heading for Biscayne Bay was to spend most of the month exploring, getting further south than we had last winter, maybe making it all the way to Key Largo. This is a pretty place and is, so far, our favorite part of the US when it comes to cruising waters. It doesn't hurt that it is just a day sail away from the Islands. But the winds are enough to keep us pinned down for now. The weather gurus suggest a two day break early next week, to be followed by more of this kind of stuff. So we may get a chance to do a little exploring yet, but the month is going to end up being spent differently than we had planned.

That may be one of the biggest differences between how we used to live and how we live now. (Apart, of course, from getting up most mornings to spend the day working at what others tell us they need done.) In the old life, changing a day's general plan, or sometimes even the next hour's, wasn't all that common. Out here weeks, even whole months, will be spent doing something unexpected. Kintala spent a month in Oriental getting a broken engine fixed. She spent the summer sitting in Florida instead of Lady's Island or the Chesapeake, her crew working much more than playing. It looks like much of this month will be spent hunkered down sitting out weather rather than riding easy in open, clear waters.

The rumor is that “out here” is a place where one can take control of life. And the truth is, it can be. But to my mind out here is not a place where we control so much as experience. Even a modest land life, one where transportation is by car and home base is a solid building of brick, wood, roof, and wall, has much more command over the weather than any in a small sailboat. A “big rain” cold front for the land liver means turning on the windshield wipers and getting to wherever a few minutes later. The same weather in a small sailboat is best avoided all together, the boat secured in a place like No Name Harbor. Getting to wherever may happen the next day, or the next week. The same weather that has us changing plans for a month's worth of cruising is barely being noticed at all by Floridians, their main complaint being a lack of sunshine and the need to wear a light jacket.

So, for now, we will experience practicing the fine art of waiting. I'll work on some Spanish, Deb on the next book in her children's book series. The experience of living on a boat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hydrocoat Update

There's an update on the Hydrocoat review on the tab in the bar above if you're looking for bottom paint.

Safe Harbors ...

So the weather forecasts were all about the inbound cold front. Some had the winds gusting to 20, some to 25, and one was suggesting 30 as the upper limit. What ever Sister Sky is up to, it doesn't look like she will be done playing until the weekend.

Ship side, Kintala's holding tank is half full. Her LP tanks are almost empty. The fridge is sans milk and the cupboard sans coffee. The laundry bag is nearly full and the dinner choices are getting fewer.

The Miami Stadium anchorage is a pretty place, well protected, and good friends are nearby. It is a safe harbor in a blow. But the people on shore are not cruiser friendly and, even if they were, there are no support facilities within walking range. The debate last night was staying for another week and making do with what we had, or heading out. We decided to stay.

This morning we decided to scoot. The deck monkey went to work at 0725. By 0800 the WesterBeast was awake. Less than ten minutes later the hook was on deck and Kintala was nosing her way toward the Rickenbacker Causeway. Once under the bridge she hunted down the point of sail that would lead to No Name Harbor, which turned out to be a pure beam reach that kept her keel directly over the ICW magenta line. Inbound cold front or no, the wind was shuffling along at ten to twelve. Full main and jib turned that into a solid five to six across the bay. The wind wasn't due to pick up for several hours and we had plenty of time. But seeing good, solid cruising numbers with the leading edge of the clouds visible off the stern will make any sailor smile.

Back in No-Name Harbor

About an hour later the turn toward the harbor entrance came abeam, which put the wind mostly on the behind us. Just for fun the jib and main were stowed and the new roller-furled staysail was spun out for the first time. We didn't expect much given its small size, but it made just shy of two knots of motion out of barely five knots apparent. I'm pretty sure that, whenever the winds gust past fifteen, that little sail is going to be my new best friend.  It rolls in just as easy as it rolls out, and the boat seems to like how it pulls on the mast.

A couple hours later the Midwest cold front arrived

Kintala sits content in No Name Harbor this evening. Sister sky has turned gray, there are whitecaps on the bay, and the temperature has sagged from slightly too warm to just perfect for a sweatshirt and hot cocoa in the cockpit. As long as the winds don't provoke a need for an anchor watch, tonight promises to be perfect for a bit of snuggling under the covers. Friends Bill and Ann, just back from a visit to a freezer named St. Louis, provided wheels for Deb to do some resupply this afternoon. (No Name has the necessary stores but they are a bit of a hike.) Kintala is full up on milk, coffee, food, LP, and even has a little extra beer on board.

Six other boats lie behind us in the harbor. One is a Nordhaven 40 trawler, which may be the pick of of that particular powerboat litter. As we passed by aiming for a spot to park, her Captain was kind enough to regard our old Tartan in like manor. This is what a “safe harbor” really means, and we are pretty content with our choice to be in this one tonight.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

One up on the cosmos ...

S/V Kelly Nicole

Friends Paul and Deb were last seen in St. Augustine nearly a year ago, before they made their escape to join the clan of cruising. Yesterday they strolled into the anchorage and dropped a hook a few boat lengths away from Kintala. It is impossible to describe how good it is to have that kind of semi-chance meeting happen “out here”. It may be, in fact it is, my personal favorite thing about this life. (I call it semi-chance because we have been keeping track of each other on various social media. They shared our pain of The Bear. We know well their cold weather and ICW travails as they led the pack southward.) We will spend a day together here at the Stadium, maybe two, then wander off to where ever. I think they are musing a marathon to Marathon while we are just a couple of weeks away from putting Kintala on a mooring to get some work done ( never ends) and then head out for some family time.

This morning a good looking Cat left the anchorage. As it passed the crew shouted across that they loved the blog, and loved Deb's new book. If there is a better way to start a day than hearing that you have added just a tiny bit to another cruiser's life, I don't know what it would be. (Deb's book, by the way, will add just as much to a land life, though I sometimes think the blog mostly makes them slightly jealous.) This is a small community of roaming gypsies, but it is a community none the less. In a lot of ways it looks to function better than just about any other around. As a group it is the embodiment of people being responsible for themselves, living a life of personal choice and liberty while, at the same time, being ready to offer a hand, help, advice, parts, and tools when needed. There is no "if": eventually one or all will be needed by one's self or someone near by.

Whenever the clan gathers at places near or far smiles come easily, stories of triumph and woe are shared and instantly understood, and hints of good places to explore get passed along. Maybe its because most spend a lot of time on their own that the time together works so well. Whatever the reasons, the tribe functions at least as well as others, and maybe a bit better than most.

It is a hard life “out here”. Risks are real and the work never-ending. But it is likely those very things are at the heart of why this life can be such a good one. They are also why things can go bad in a heartbeat, meaning that living this way includes a built in “humbleness factor”. Any that get too uppity, too self-absorbed, too confident, will likely find Mother Ocean dumping an industrial sized can of whup-ass into the sea that surrounds them. I'd like to think I get smacked around mostly because I don't always know exactly what I'm doing. But it could be, after a lifetime of being a pilot, that I have some ego to spare. There are a lot of pilots out here, so maybe I should take a pole. A thing I have noticed among the clan, egos are def-fanged as quickly and easily as religion and politics. Anyone can have as much of any as they like, but no one is inclined to pay much attention. Political and religious differences are tolerated with barely a hint of rancor. Personalities that would rate "out of bounds" on land, are celebrated in this tribe. "Plain vanilla" is not the flavor of choice. Being mobile it is a group constantly being mixed and re-mixed

Each day dawns with no guarantees. It might be the first good day in a long string of excellent. It might be a day where things get a bit more interesting than expected. It might be the day of reckoning, the final chapter to a story. That is the deal signed when the dock lines get tossed, and there is no getting around it. One thing is true though ...

After months of relentless struggling, on this day, Kintala is a happy boat. And that puts her one up on most of the rest of the cosmos.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

We now return you .. your regularly scheduled program.

We ended up spending six days in South Lake and got to see two free concerts on the Ocean Walk. The second was by a group named "IKO IKO". They were smoking, with a lady electric violin player / vocalist who set the world on fire, backed by one of the best drummers I have ever heard live on stage. Before the show we stopped at the middle Ice Cream place, which had better ice cream at a much better price than did the first place. The woman who owned it was working the counter, and she was a hoot as well. After the show we hung around with a friend met during the marina stay last summer. All in all a delightful surprise of an evening. The next day, yesterday, we made a trip to the marina for another pump-out and more water. Then we settled back into South Lake for one more night.

This morning Kintala's crew rolled out at 0500 in the "you have to be kidding me". By 0545 the deck was set for sailing, the anchor was secured in the roller, and we were waiting on the 0600 bridge opening. By 0830 Kintala was on the open ocean once again, with the jib pulling easy in light winds and the WesterBeast silent. It was a downhill stroll with tiny waves and the boat sitting nearly straight up. After a bit the wind clocked around almost directly off the stern so we set the pole. That rig carried us most of the way but had us angled wrong. To miss the shore and make the inlet marker the main went up for the first time since, since ... hell, I can't remember the last time the main was up. A couple of jibes later and we were at the inlet for Government Cut. There was only one little sailing mishap. While rolling in the jib at the end of the day the sail got a kind of backlash wound into it. Never saw anything quite like that before. It and it took a couple of tries, with me standing on the bow pulpit, to get the sail out and back the way it was supposed to go the first time.

We gained 3/4 kt with the pole.

In spite of that little problem, and regardless of the fact that it has been months since Kintala was moved under sail and not motor, we managed to pull off the day with a certain amount of aplomb. Government Cut was its usual madhouse boat scene; made more mad since there are two cruise ships in port. When that happens the main channel of the port is closed to most traffic, pushing almost all of it into the smaller Fisherman's cut. Not sure why it works that way. If Greyhound parked a tour bus on Broadway, would NY send everyone out to the 'burbs to catch a movie instead? Anyway, we heard the Miami police turn away several different boats who hadn't gotten the memo, making them move through Fisherman's cut with the rest of us. Wake hits, ferry boats apparently under the illusion the cut belongs to them, and mega yachts with Captain / Owners who are absolutely convinced the cut belongs to them ... no matter. Kintala picked her way through with nary a comment and tonight rests content in Miami's Marine Stadium anchorage.

It seems that Miami once held boat races like small Midwestern American towns run dirt tracks. This place was the track and there is a huge seating pavilion along the shore. One of the hurricanes tore the place up, the city didn't see a reason to repair it, and now it sits as a giant graffiti display. The actual anchorage seems pretty nice, though there were some thin spots getting in. We may spend a couple of nights here just because we haven't been here before. It has also been months since Kintala was in a new place, adding one smile more to an already good day. Then, to top it off, a pod of dolphins swam in to puff and play around us. I think they were welcoming us home, as glad to see Kintala back in her natural habitat as we are glad to be here.

Kintala is back in the groove.

Dolphins and sunsets. What more can a person ask for.

OK maybe a view from your kitchen window like this one?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Forbidden Fruit

The main problem with anchoring at South Lake is that Hollywood isn't particularly fond of cruisers. To discourage our spending money in their town they have gone out of their way to insure there is no good place to tie up a dink for a few hours. There is a very nice boat ramp / floating dock complex by the marina, but last fall we were (rather brusquely) informed that it was “illegal” to use without paying to park a car / trailer in their lot. My what a difference a few months of cruising will do to one's attitude toward that kind of thing.

Thunderbird Five is the gaff-rigged ketch in the middle
Curry dinner prepared by Ray on Thunderbird Five. Yum!
We have spent very little time off the boat since dropping the hook here. Dinner on Thunderbird 5, dinking in to pick up friends for dinner on Kintala, and a run for dropping trash and watching the last MotoGP race of the season about covers it. So last night, after an excellent dinner of stuffed pork chops, we decided a walk to the beach was in order. It gets dark early now, the marina is closed by the time the sun goes down, and the boat ramp / floating docks are empty. Works for me.

It is a bit of a hike across the Hollywood bridge and on to the ocean, but the walk worked a good stretch into unsteady land legs. Once there, we found that the ocean front Board Walk is actually made of bricks. It is also about the nicest Ocean Walk we have ever seen. Not only is it pretty, clean, and well lit, in the space of just a couple of blocks we found three ice creams stores … three! Still full from dinner we could only stop at one of them, and even then a small cone was more than enough. It was a treat, though, “more than enough” went for the price as well. Ten bucks for two single scoop sugar cones, really?

Further along a free concert was in full swing on the Ocean Walk stage. The band was playing a mixture of Spanish hits, 50's bee-bop, 70's rock-n-roll, and Jimmy Buffet tunes. And they were doing a pretty good job of it. People were clapping, singing along, dancing; a regular street party that was a bit of a jolt after days of lying quietly, and mostly alone, to our anchor.

It looks like we will be spending just another day or two here. The weather looks good for a run to Miami before the weekend is over. By next week we hope to be back in Biscayne Bay and exploring some places we missed last fall. Some friends are there already and others are heading that way. We are full blown cruisers once again, living as easy on the water as the day's weather will permit, moving when we want, and stopping where we like. If that means a clandestine dink parking at a forbidden dock once is awhile, that's okay as well.